The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

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Category: Classic
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Date Published: September 19, 1979
Number of Pages: 504
Print Price: $10.93
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Short stories are the chamber music of literature, using the same instruments to create, on a smaller scale, a different and complementary art form. Katherine Anne Porter was a deft short story writer.

I had no idea that Porter was a Catholic when I picked up her Stories. She was simply one of those authors I always intended to read. Almost immediately, I sensed a Catholic world view – which was quickly reinforced by Catholic characters and references.

Brief biographical research turned up the following: Porter was born in 1890 into a Protestant family in Texas, but studied in a convent boarding school in New Orleans and converted to Catholicism when she married (at age 16) her first husband – the son of a wealthy Catholic rancher. Her husband was abusive, and she left – working her way to New York where she met Diego Rivera and became involved in Mexican revolutionary politics. Politically disillusioned by her actual experience in Mexico, she also drifted away from the Church, led a bohemian life (she was divorced at least four times), but returned to the Church in the last decade of her life. She died in 1980 at the age of ninety.

This wealth of experience is reflected in her stories. “Flowering Judas,” for instance, is about a young American woman participating in Mexican revolutionary politics.

She was born Roman Catholic, and in spite of her fear of being seen by someone who might make a scandal of it, she slips now and again into some crumbling little church, kneels on the chilly stone, and says a Hail Mary on the gold rosary she bought in Tehuantepec. It is no good and she ends by examining the altar with its tinsel flowers and ragged brocades, and feels tender about the battered doll-shape of some male saint whose white, lace-trimmed drawers hang limply about his ankles below the hieratic dignity of his velvet robe.


Catholicism emerges strongly in “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall.” Granny, who was left standing at the altar in her youth, is now on her death bed. Once again, she is waiting. Once again, the priest is in the house. But will the groom – Christ – appear this time? The response may be enigmatic – is she jilted again or, like Christ, does she pass through a moment of feeling forsaken?

Porter’s story ”He” – about a Southern rural family with a mentally challenged son – foreshadows Flannery O’Connor. One of her less successful stories – “Hacienda” – reflects the moral decadence one finds in Evelyn Waugh. Porter is not anchored in the strong faith that give O’Connor and Waugh their solidity; but she is searching, and the stories are worth reading.

 

Publisher:
ISBN-13: 978-1561887675
Original Language: English
Book Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.2 inches


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Arthur Powers went to Brazil with the Peace Corps in 1969 and lived most his adult life in that country. From 1985 to 1992, he and his wife served with the Franciscan Friars in the Amazon, organizing rural workers’ unions and subsistence farmer groups in a region of violent land conflicts. Subsequently he directed Catholic Relief Services in Brazil. The Powers currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mr. Powers received a Fellowship in Fiction from the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, three annual awards for short fiction from the Catholic Press Association, and 2nd place in the 2008 Tom Howard Fiction Contest. In 2011, he was a finalist in the Press 53 Short Story Open Awards, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His short stories and poetry have appeared in America, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Christianty & Literature, Dappled Things, Dreams & Visions, Hiram Poetry Review, Kansas Quarterly, Liguorian, Prime Number, Roanoke Review, St. Anthony Messenger, South Carolina Review, Southern Poetry Review, Texas Quarterly, Windhover, Worcester Review, and many other magazines and anthologies.

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